Five Questions of Visitors
May 13, 2016, 5:47 PM


The Rector’s Column

by The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler


I went to a presentation on visitors’ questions, offered by the Center for Congregations – and maybe you can tell me if our speaker was right, in remembering if any of these were your questions when you first came to Christ Church!

The first question was: “Where am I supposed to go?”  Although initially I thought of this in terms of “Which door do I use?” – and the presenter did talk about that, the first “door”, he said, is our website or Facebook page.  Worship times and descriptions of our worship forms should be immediately obvious on the site.  (I can see we have a little work to do on that score!)  Directions to the church are also important, as are pictures of the church staff, and a personal mission statement by the staff members (why I do this and what we strive to accomplish).  These web resources need to be accurate and up-to-date!  (If we were still advertising for last fall’s St Cecilia Festival, it would be a problem.)

The next portion of “where do I go” has to do with signage at the church. Which is the door to go in?  Where are the restrooms?  Where is the nursery (if any)?  Greeters should be present at all doors to guide the perplexed!

Question Two: Who are all these people?  In this instance, “these people” are those who are conducting the service: their names and functions should be listed.  Again, greeters can be helpful here; they should introduce themselves to any visitors and determine if the visitors will perhaps need assistance in following the liturgy.

Question Three: “When do we actually start?”  With stories of churches that advertise a given start time for worship but never seem to start on time, our presenter warned this could be a turn-off.  Many visitors, he said, prefer to come just before things get going, because they don’t want to be all alone and uncomfortable because they don’t know anyone in the place.

Question Four:  “What’s been happening up till now?”  If there is a “sermon series” it’s important to recap – not just for strangers but for regulars who may have missed one or more installments.

Question Five: “I’m supposed to do what?”  If we use specialized terminology, we can sow confusion, rather than grace.  Use common language, and don’t expect visitors to intuit what behavior is normal, and never put them on the spot!

How do you think we do?